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Lorrenzo Lotto, The Virgin And Child With Saints Roch And Sebastian

1143 words - 5 pages

Lorenzo Lotto, The Virgin and Child with Saints Roch and Sebastian is a depiction of the Virgin and Child accompanied by St. Sebastian to the right and St. Roch to the left. Both saints were invoked for protection against the plague: St. Roch, pointing to the plague sore on his thigh and identified by his pilgrim's staff, cloak, and hat, and St. Sebastian, with the arrow that recalls his suffering at the hands of Roman archers. This devotional painting was commissioned by a surgeon, for whom the subject would have had special significance in a period of devastating epidemics. The painting was made in 1521-1524, during the high renaissance. The subject matter of the painting, depiction of ...view middle of the document...

The use of these particular figures was well thought of by Lotto. Saint Roch was a nobleman who had succumbed to the plague and was miraculously healed by an angel. Saint Sebastian was a Roman solider who survived his execution by arrows, which were considered a symbol of the plague. The common thing between both Saints is that they both survived the plague, Saint Roch actually, and Saint Sebastian allegorically. The painting gives hope to the people during the plague. Lotto reassures the viewers by having Saint Sebastian in front of the composition, protecting the Virgin and Child, almost like a shield and illuminating most of his body. Saint Roch’s role as a healer is more subtle.
The Saints themselves have very unusual expressions on their faces, given the situation being depicted. Both saints look ecstatic or in pain, with their eyes lowered, heads tilted and their mouths slightly opened, even the Virgin and child have lowered their gaze. None of the figures look directly at the viewers, disconnecting themselves from us. The plague sore that St. Roch is supposed to be pointing to, appears to be on St, Sebastian’s leg. This, coupled with the fact that both their heads are angled away from each other and their expressions makes St. Roch a mirror-image of St. Sebastian. The arrow that pierces St. Sebastian through the chest does not look painful, even the small amount of blood dripping from the wound looks dried and looks very old. There is no sign of discomfort on his face and in his body language. This could be done to show strength, and reassure the sick viewers. Also the injuries could be there just to distinguish the characters, not to be gory. The clothes they are wearing are simple, and not elaborate. Saint Sebastian only has one piece of white cloth around his waist, while the rest of him is exposed. There is some muscle definition shown on his body, emphasizing his role as a soldier and protector. The muscles however are not exaggerated, making the Saint more relatable.

The Virgin has a sensuous expression on her face, with her lowered gaze and head, but there is nothing sexual about it. She is not nude, and her robe uses primary colors and is loose fitting and does not show her silhouette in anyway. Everything about her is very...

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